NVRC Currents

NVRC Currents

Aug 20

Virtual Safe Walking Summit A Success - Debbie Spiliotopoulos

Posted on August 20, 2020 at 9:01 AM by Bob Lazaro

Walkability Summit SlideThe Northern Virginia Regional Commission, with America Walks, hosted a virtual safe walking summit on August 19 for 86 attendees, showcasing data and multi sector initiatives to reduce crashes and increase community safety and health in Virginia.

Presenters included Virginia Departments of Transportation, Motor Vehicles, and Health, and Arlington County, Fairfax County, City of Fairfax, Prince William County, AARP, and Inova Trauma Services.

Panels presented new initiatives and approaches to reduce incidents, engage communities, evaluate crashes through the lens of public health, and make safe walking and transit more equitable across communities.

The event ended with conference calls among smaller groups to solve how better to engage communities, what training materials would support efforts, and using community based information such as walk audits and SRTS projects.

NVRC will produce a resource list, video recording, and Q&A from the summit to be posted on the NVRC and Share VA Roads web sites.

This project was funded by a federal highway safety grant from Virginia DMV.

Aug 17

Creative Surplus Food Re-distribution in Northern Virginia & Overseas - NVRC Staff

Posted on August 17, 2020 at 8:14 AM by Bob Lazaro

Picture of food in containersThe COVID-19 pandemic has intensified food insecurity throughout Northern Virginia.  In July, the Capital Area Food Bank reported that as many as 415,000 people across the metropolitan Washington DC region currently lack consistent access to meals – approximately 100,000 alone in Northern Virginia.   Rising unemployment combined with the massive disruptions to the operations of food relief operations and food pantries threaten the sick, elderly and marginalized populations in ways not seen in generations. 

But creative approaches that address Northern Virginia’s “food deserts” are emerging, especially those that focus on food waste mitigation through improved surplus food distribution.  For example,  Reston’s “Embry Rucker Community Shelter” is tying into the region’s gig-economy roots through the deployment of an app developed by “Food Rescue” to match its needs with available surplus foods provided by restaurants, grocers, farmers’ markets and other local businesses.  Information from the app then is used by volunteers who collect and deliver the foods and meals to the Reston shelter. 

In Fairfax County, “Food for Others” collects surplus foods via food rescue operations and food drives. Staff and volunteers collect surplus foods from local grocery stores and retail food establishments, transport it to warehouses for temporary storage and ultimately distribution to families in need across the region. Next door, the Arlington Food Assistance Center operates extensive food recovery and education programs that include farm gleaning and retrieving unneeded fresh produce from Farmers Markets, places of worship, households and other gardens to access and distribute fresh produce free of charge to those in need.   Moreover, the Society of St. Andrew “End Hunger” program works with in this region and the Shenandoah Valley with volunteers who glean unmarketable fruits and vegetables from commercial farms and food distributers and distributes them to food pantries and food assistance organizations.  In 2019, their national “Gleaning Network” collected and distributed 13,025,551 pounds of fresh produce collected by 23,286 volunteers from farmers’ fields and orchards after the harvest.

Creative approaches to addressing food deserts through surplus food distribution are also to be found across the Atlantic in cities such as Berlin and Stuttgart.  For example, the German grocery retailer Lidl, whose North American headquarters is based in Arlington County, rolled out in 2019 an anti-food waste strategy for its 3,200 stores in Germany.  Food products that are close to their date of expiration are collected, sorted and discounted 50 percent.  The foods, which include dairy, fresh produce, baked goods, frozen and dry goods, are boxed and labeled “I’m Still Good” and placed in green cardboard boxes near the store entrances.   Trials at stores across Germany point to double digit reductions in food waste. 

In Berlin, there is a growing use of the online platform and application “Foodsharing.de”.  The Foodsharing.de app also links grocers, bakers and other food suppliers (or when food is served at large gatherings) with volunteers and residents willing to share and re-use edible and safe surplus foods.  Foodsharing.de has approximately 35,000 active users and 7,000 partner organizations across Germany who have helped save and safely re-use approximately 70 million pounds of food.

The Northern Virginia region is among the wealthiest and most highly educated regions of the United States.  That there are such high levels of food insecurity here paints a grimmer image in other regions across the United States. As our region navigates its way through the food desert by strengthening surplus food distribution efforts and learning from the work of Berlin or Stuttgart, it stands to serve as a national and global model.

Relevant links:

National Capital Area Foodbank “Hunger Report 2020https://storymaps.arcgis.com/stories/e764da62715f4931985ee493e15e0dfc

Food for Othershttps://www.foodforothers.org/

Food Rescuehttps://foodrescue.us/

Society of St. Andrew “End Hunger”https://endhunger.org/?gclid=Cj0KCQjw7Nj5BRCZARIsABwxDKI-jS3MJDyaV_NFgKkI3CKNc_6YYI4ymWD7SK9pf7jEVHyYpgUkID8aAgAfEALw_wcB

National Gleaning Projecthttps://nationalgleaningproject.org/gleaning-map/?fwp_state=va

Foodsharing.dehttps://foodsharing.de/

Prince William County Food Rescuehttps://pwfoodrescue.org/

For other food recovery projects in Northern Virginia, dial 2-1-1 to speak to a trained Information and Referral Specialist about hunger resources in your neighborhood. 

Blog post authored by: Tylee Smith, Debbie Spiliotopoulos & Dale Medearis

Aug 14

Newly Certified Bicycle and Pedestrian Trainers Available - Debbie Spiliotopoulos

Posted on August 14, 2020 at 8:42 AM by Bob Lazaro

Picture of Bike InstructorsNVRC recently graduated 8 new licensed certified safety instructors under the Share VA Roads bicycle and pedestrian safety campaign. For the third year, Share VA Roads in partnership with the League of American Bicyclists, Washington Area Bicycling Association, and Alexandria BPAC has graduated a class of licensed safety instructors who completed training this weekend, the first virtual based socially distant training for the league!

With the addition of these new instructors, Northern Virginia now boasts 30 licensed certified instructors with further training in pedestrian safety and a commitment to safety and active transportation through the Share Virginia Roads grant program.  Our new trainers include: Michael Wear, Yvette White, Maya AbdelRahim-Soboleva, Caren Roushkolb, Randy Cole, Jen Wiser, and Laura Robinson.  They are available to support your community safety and promote safe bicycling activities in the region, reach out to NVRC to connect with them or the 22 earlier safety instructors available for education and outreach.

Please email Debbie to arrange for an education and outreach session.

Instructors are certified by the League of American Bicyclists as certified instructors, and additionally go through pedestrian safety training geared towards Virginia laws.  This year was special, as the instructors represent the first socially distant LCI training in the country, which involved over 20 hours of zoom, individually videoing drills for review, and rides, all with face masks.

In exchange for this training, instructors are available for community training, education, and outreach to our high crash communities in Northern Virginia.  This is an especially important service as so many are interested in riding and walking for exercise and transportation as a result of pandemic shutdowns.  Though the pandemic has led to fewer pedestrian deaths, speed and unrestrained occupant (no seat belt) deaths have risen in Virginia by 18 percent since the shutdowns.